10 Jun 2016

Green Fingers and Gondwanaland

From Country Life, 9:29 pm on 10 June 2016

Anna Moore thinks the rabbits on her Otago Peninsula property watch for the bedroom light to be turned out before they venture out to wreak havoc.

Anna and her husband, Peter Cooke have spent 34 years creating an impressive organic garden on their 4 hectares at the base of Harbour Cone.

Early on they had to fence every tree they planted. The rabbits would ring bark them all. Peter also took up arms against them.

"I couldn't believe my vegetarian husband would buy a gun, but he did," Anna laughs.

Thousands of native, rare and other carefully selected trees have been planted in the garden and, in the past three decades, the couple has seen bird numbers swell.

Bell birds have always filled the valley with song. New Zealand's smallest native bird, the rifleman nests there too but  it took 18 years before Anna and Peter heard a tui and 20 years for a wood pigeon to take up residence.  

"We've got a big water... pot outside the kitchen and the other day we got up and there were five tui bathing in it. They jump into this deep water and just fluff their feathers and hop out again. It's absolutely fabulous," they say.

Peter, who is the local GP, has planted a Gondwana forest after tracking down descendants of plants that grew on Gondwana from South Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand.

He also likes experimenting to see what typically 'heat loving' plants can grow at a latitude of 45 degrees south.

"He's the eternal optimist. I never thought we would see a macadamia in our life time fruiting here but there we are..." Anna says.

The garden also grows feijoas, tamarillos, sweetcorn, citrus, asparagus and figs.

"Because we're high up, frost drains away, sun all day, sheltered from the wind, it's the ideal little micro-climate," Peter says.

Tour Groups from New Zealand and overseas travel to visit Hereweka Garden.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Country Life

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)